The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing #5: Repurposing Old Content

By Alexander Bussey

In Part 4 of this series, we discussed repurposing old content as a means to attract new backlinks or to function as part of a broken link building campaign. While both are functional ways to utilize old material, there are even more benefits to repurposing your user content. Marketing luminaries like Eric Ward and Rand Fishkin view pre-written content as a powerful resource, which can be reshaped to serve your business in the present day. In his work, Eric Ward has talked about the fact that language from historical articles can easily be refreshed to:

  • Target new keywords
  • Restore lost rankings
  • Reach untapped segments of your target audience
  • Re-establish your brand authority

And, we are inclined to agree. In fact, we would go a step further and say that old content is an untapped goldmine for marketers; capable of scaling up your digital reach for a very small investment of money and/or time.

In this article, we want to drill down and explore the benefits associated with repurposing old articles. We will also explain how to identify content that could benefit from a quick refresh, and talk you through the best and most effective way to make old articles work for you.

First, we need to define what we mean by ?old content.? An example might be, most businesses have a blog. And of these businesses, most do a fairly good job of posting new content to their blog.

What is ?old content?”

Unfortunately, few people are told about or rarely consider the critical importance of continually refreshing their old content. This oftentimes leads to a situation where blogs fill up with backlogs of old, irrelevant articles.

In most cases, these articles:

  • Contain outdated information
  • Receive little to no organic traffic
  • Do not target a single, specific keyword
  • Do not target a high-value keyword

Additionally, these articles are normally written before c-suite executives or business owners are familiarized with the ins and outs of SEO, and they tend to ignore modern best practices; like including target keywords in the /h1 tag, or ensuring meta descriptions are effective.

Old content tends to rank poorly as well among online search engines. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all prefer ?fresh,? timely, and relevant articles -which means that even 2-3,000-word guides (full of potentially useful information) tend to lose their rankings and relevancy over time.

That does not necessarily mean that content has a limited lifespan, though. If anything, there is actually more life to in-depth content than you might realize – as long as you don?t fall into the trap of letting it stagnate on page 5 of your blog.

Instead, you should seek opportunities to review and refresh your articles, which would ultimately allow you to spend less. time building new content and keep retargeting the high-value search phrases that really matter to your business.

  • Refreshing old content also provides you with a golden opportunity to change the focus of your articles, so that you can use them as part of a broken link building campaign

How do you repurpose old content?

Let?s start with an example. Say you run a pet supply business, and once published an article on the benefits of organic dog shampoo. For the purpose of this exercise, we?ll pretend that you spent 3-4 hours writing the article and that it used to rank in position #2 for the phrase ?organic dog shampoo.?

Chances are this article used to drive a steady stream of organic traffic to your site. It probably also helped to establish your expertise, and highlight the fact that you were a thought leader in the dog-grooming vertical.

Unfortunately, you wrote the article three years ago, and it has slowly dropped down in rankings. Worse still, the phrase ?organic? has lapsed, and most people are now looking for ?natural? or ?chemical-free? dog shampoo instead.

Rather than simply leaving the article on your blog as it were, you have an ideal opportunity to take the content and use it to [re-]create:

  • A list of your top 10 all-natural dog shampoos
  • A guide to picking the best, chemical-free dog shampoos
  • A new article, exploring the reasons some dog breeds have sensitive skin, and the best way of addressing this problem
  • A short blog post about the evolving market of dog shampoo

Some of this content might also be of use in a broken link building campaign. There is a good chance that people have linked out to old or outdated lists of natural dog shampoo, particularly if they?ve written similar articles. If you spend some time looking for examples with broken, outdated links, you stand a good chance of persuading webmasters to link out to your ?fresher? content instead.

Some of these articles will also rank well on their own; helping you to rebuild a steady stream of organic traffic, and tap into a new, potentially broader, segment of your target audience (namely, the people searching for natural or chemical-free shampoo, who otherwise would not have seen your content in the past).

Most important of all? You will have created 3 new articles, just by reimagining content you?ve already written. And, you will have wasted no time on research or product selection, and there?s every chance that you?ll have been able to write all 3 articles in half the time it took to write that first, 2,000-word piece.

In short, repurposing your content allows you to breathe new life into old articles. It also allows you to maximize the ROI generated by your work and justifies the time spent developing detailed content, ultimately cutting down on future work.

All you need to do is look at an old article, and spend some time thinking about ways to reuse/refresh the information in a way that is more relevant, and perhaps more specific to the times and/or circumstance.

Finding?old?content

Given this information, we do not mean to say that that you should repurpose all of your content. Sometimes, blog posts do not perform well because they didn?t actually ever ?hit the spot,? meaning that simply refreshing the content would be a complete waste of effort.

It is also important to recognize that old content can be too outdated for a simple refresh. Old articles featuring how-tos about using directories to build links are a prime example of this, as this tactic is now obsolete.

So, how do you work out which articles to refresh? In most cases, Google Analytics is a valuable tool. If you open Analytics, drill down to Content > On-Site Content, and you?ll be able to see a list of your articles, which can be ordered by page views. By picking through this list, you should be able to find examples that:

  • Were previously very popular
  • Have experienced a significant drop-off in the last 6-12 months
  • Talk about a subject that is still relevant to your niche
  • Used to have low bounce rates (60% or below) and a good time on page (30 seconds plus)

These articles are your untapped resources. They are pieces that used to perform well, but that slowly dropped off the map due to their historic nature, but the information is still viable to the subject matter and can still resonate with your target audience.

In short, they are pieces that can be restructured for current use in a matter of hours.

We?d recommend going through and looking for these types of articles once every 3-6 months, so as to help you consistently monitor your backlog, and make sure that you update and rework content before it becomes irrelevant.

Generally speaking, we would also recommend that you spend a few hours every month looking at ways to repurpose your old content. It?s difficult to say exactly how often you should post a repurposed article, but once or twice a month seems beneficial, ?particularly if you?re trying to build broken links or maintain good rankings.

However, do be careful not to repurpose content that is still functioning well. It can take 2-3 months for Google to pick up an article, and you definitely don?t want to post a refreshed version while the original piece is still being placed. It?s for this reason that we recommend looking at content that?s more than six months old.

WordPress has a good breakdown of the different ways you can repurpose content here.

Alternatively, if you have any questions about repurposing content – or want to learn more about digital marketing – ?you can always reach us using the contact form on our site.

We?re happy to answer questions about link-building, SEO or digital marketing and we are passionate about helping small businesses build their online exposure. Please don?t hesitate to drop us a line!

In the next article, we?ll be looking at social media and SEO. Until then, happy marketing!

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